Busy first year as a pro for Ricky Hatton-trained Brett McGinty

Donegal light-middleweight Brett McGinty is trained by Ricky Hatton
Andy Watters

BRETT McGinty has been Ireland's busiest fighter this year and he intends to end a fruitful first 12 months as a professional by extending his record to 5-0 in London next month.

The Ricky Hatton-trained light-middleweight from St Johnstone, Donegal spent two years between his last amateur fight and his pro debut so the one thing he needed was work and he's had plenty of it. A devastating body puncher, the well-schooled former Ireland international has improved steadily since moving to England to train at the Hatton Gym in Hyde.

“I took a while deciding what I was going to do as far as the pros went,” he says.

“I didn't know who to sign with or who to train with and it took 8-10 months to sort it all out. I was supposed to make my debut on the 21st of March last year in Bolton and everything got cancelled on the 17th.”

Because of Covid, he didn't make his debut until last December and it wasn't much fun for him being skint during lockdown but he has made up for lost time since with four wins on-the-trot on Hennessy Sports' shows also featuring one or other, or both, of Monaghan brothers Stevie and Aaron McKenna.

“It was tough in the lockdown,” says McGinty.

“You've turned professional and you want to make a living for yourself. People don't realise sometimes that when you go pro it's not just about being a champion and about being successful, it's about earning a few quid as well and that was very difficult during the lockdown. You didn't have any clarity of what was going on and what was going to happen but Mick Hennessy came knocking and showed a lot of interest, I got a good deal with him through Sheer Sports (his manager) and here we are now a year later with four fights under my belt and things are going well.”

McGinty has hit it off with coach Hatton – the former light-welterweight and welterweight world champion – and does his training at his gym in Hyde, near Manchester.

“We have a really good relationship,” he says.

“He's a legend in the sport but the good thing for us is that he's a damn good coach as well and I have improved a lot. I've been training over there for about two years and maybe the lockdown played into my hands on a positive note because I had plenty of training under my belt and I was able to get used to Ricky at the new surroundings.

“He's a top coach and a top man and he's one of the lads around the gym, there's no ego with him.”

He shares a house with two other Hatton-trained fighters but admits that living away from home has its challenges. Giving up Donegal will be a sacrifice worth making as he chases his boxing dreams.

“I'm not going to lie, it's not easy being away from home and I would much prefer that Ricky Hatton lived in Derry or Donegal,” he says.

“But it is what it is, it's one of the sacrifices I have to make and I want to make because I know that when I go to Manchester to get ready for a fight it's time to get the head down and prepare right for it. Everything is spot on and then when I come home I can relax and let my hair down a bit.”

Recently he watched another Donegal middleweight, Jason Quigley, fall short in his challenge for the WBO middleweight title in the USA. Quigley had chased a world title dream for a lifetime but his moment in the spotlight lasted just over five minutes against Demetrius Andrade.

McGinty can learn valuable lessons from his friend's experience.

“I was devastated for Jason, absolutely devastated,” he said.

“The most frustrating thing for him was that he never got a chance to show what he was capable of. He did a 12-week camp and then he got his jaw broke in the first round. It's one of those things that you can't control in boxing. It was over before he knew it because he was caught with such a big shot.

“The goal for me is to get a world title shot and hopefully I can get a win.”

KRISTINA O'Hara made a winning start to her professional career in Sheffield on Friday night. The Belfast flyweight out-pointed Argentina's Maira Dayana Loyola over four rounds and enjoyed “a really positive experience”.

“My last couple of years in boxing were a really negative experience but it was really positive in Sheffield and it gave me the buzz I wanted, that I've been missing for a long time,” she said.

“Because I was out for so long my timing and distance wasn't as good as it could have been and there was a lot of stuff I could have put together better but that'll come with getting more active over the next couple of years.

“I was happy with the performance and I expected a lot more from my opponent. She was tough and game but I thought it was going to be toe-to-toe for four rounds whereas I was a bit more comfortable so that shows where I'm at.”

AMIR Khan and Kell Brook will finally settle their long-running feud on February 19.

After a decade of calling each other out, former WBA and IBF light-welterweight champion Khan, 34, and ex-IBF welterweight champion Brook, 35, will meet in Manchester.

Many will argue the pair are settling scores long past their prime but promoter Ben Shalom, from BOXXER, says the fight still carries weight.

"Khan and Brook are icons of the sport in Britain and this will be an iconic encounter," he said. "Their rivalry has simmered for years, they are still by far the best welterweights in the country and the eyes of the world will be on them when they square off in February to finally settle the question about which of them is the better man.

"This is a fight every boxing fan has wanted to see for years. It's the biggest fight in British boxing right now outside of Anthony Joshua versus Tyson Fury and we're delighted to be able to deliver this legacy-defining clash live and exclusively on Sky Sports Box Office."

Brook said: "I'm sick of people coming up to me asking me when I'm going to fight him. February 19 is when he hits the deck for the final time.

"He's never given me respect, acknowledged me. He's always ran away and it's come to this part of our career when there's nowhere else for him to run. It's been frustrating for me, I've wanted this for many years."

Khan added: "I've never ran from him, never needed to, what I've achieved in sport speaks for itself, but we're here now. At the end of the day, the talk he's been giving, February 19, he needs to back them words up."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access